As the top seed in your conference, the opening series of the NHL playoffs has the most amount of pressure attached to it—and for good reason.
Hockey, above all the professional sports, sees the most upsets. Every year, a highly-seeded team will see its demise to a more opportune foe. Sometimes for clear reasons, other are still trying to be sorted out.
How much pressure do you think the New York Rangers are under?
More than you think.
A year ahead of their projected development, the Blueshirts completed a wonderful regular season with 109 points, and leaped ahead of everyone's expectations to earn the right of being called the Eastern Conference's best team.
With that label comes the pressure and expectations of going deep into the playoffs.
New York alleviated some of that pressure last night, notching a convincing 4-2 win at Madison Square Garden in Game 1 against the Ottawa Senators.
The Rangers were off to a good start—including getting the game's first goal courtesy of Ryan Callahan's first of the playoffs—before Ottawa composed themselves and put the Rangers on their heels with constant offensive pressure.
A critical timeout called by Rangers' bench boss John Tortorella turned his team's fortunes around. It calmed his young team down, allowing for their game to return before scoring the game's next four goals and sealing the team's first victory of the 2012 NHL playoffs.
New York received two things in Game 1 that, if they continue, will be the reasons why they're able to make a legitimate Cup run: superb goaltending and timely goal scoring from key players.
Henrik Lundqvist has had quite a regular-season career. Earlier this season, the King become the first goaltender in NHL history to notch seven-consecutive 30-win campaigns to start his career. However, before last night's victory, Lundqvist was 15-20 with a 2.60 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.
Those postseason numbers have to improve if New York has any desires of Stanley Cup glory in June.
Aside from Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards—the top-two point scorers for the Rangers this season—both potted goals. It's a rare sight to see all three of these names in a stat sheet for New York. Only twice during the regular season did the Blueshirts have Callahan, Richards and Gaborik all score in the same game.
Having all three score more often in the postseason will be vital to the team's success.
Getting the first win in a playoff series is always crucial despite what the numbers may say. Had New York lost to Ottawa, on home ice, in a convincing way, all the talk would be whether or not New York is for real and if Ottawa could manage an upset.
Instead, the Rangers showed the hockey world they're ready for the big time, are willing to battle to get the job done in a long playoff season and are off on the right track after Game 1.